The Art Angle Podcast: The Rise and Fall of Anne Geddes, Queen of Baby Photography
On this week's episode, Artnet News art and design editor Noor Brara charts the career arc of Anne Geddes and her empire of infant images.
Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join host Andrew Goldstein every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more with input from our own writers and editors as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.
Picture this: a doughy, apple-cheeked infant nestled in between the soft petals of a dew-kissed flower, sound asleep, like the start of a real-life fable. Almost everyone who conjures that mental image will do so using a nearly identical aesthetic—and whether you realize it or not, that’s almost entirely because of the work of legendary baby photographer Anne Geddes.
After her debut photography book, Down in the Garden, soared to number three on the New York Times Bestseller list in 1996, Geddes’s wholesomely surreal infant images became inescapable. Oprah went on air to declare Down in the Garden the best coffee-table book she’d ever seen, and by late December 1997, Geddes’s publishing partners had sold more than 1.8 billion (yes, with a “b”) calendars and date books of her photography for the upcoming year. Her dizzying success soon spurred the artist to ramp up production, with a standard Geddes shoot requiring six-to-eight months of planning and a budget between $250,000 and $350,000. But who could blame her for going big? Geddes’s empire of adorable infants seemed unstoppable.
Cut to 2020, however, and the picture has changed dramatically—not just for Geddes, but for an entire creative economy driven by analog photography, print publishing, and the high barriers to entry formerly associated with both. Years after smartphones first began putting increasingly high-quality cameras in nearly everyone’s pocket, and Instagram began providing masses of self-trained shutterbugs a free and wide-reaching distribution platform for their images, it’s not hyperbole to say that the pillars on which Geddes built her career have crumbled. So what’s the Queen of Baby Photography to do when her kingdom becomes unrecognizable?
In this week’s episode, Andrew Goldstein chats with Noor Brara, Artnet’s art and design editor, about her recent profile of Geddes. Together, they discuss the artist’s rise, fall, and reckoning with culture’s digital evolution.
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